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Boltless Die Cuts Cleaning Downtime for Film, Sheet, and Coating Extrusion

Die cleanout and color changes are simplified with a flat-die clamping system that mechanically clamps and releases die halves in reportedly less than a minute. The new system consists of a series of hydro-mechanical clamps positioned along the backline of the die manifold in the same locations occupied by the body bolts in a conventional die. The traditional bolts hold the upper and lower halves of the die body together, offsetting the 3500- to 4000-psi forces inside the die. Removing them requires 1650 to 1950 Nm (1200 to 1300 ft-lb) of torqueÑwork often done with manual tools. With this new system, the operator of the boltless die simply flips a switch to start a 30 second unclamping or reclamping process. The system is only available on new dies.

The boltless die is said to increase machine uptime and operator productivity for extrusion processors and Web converters who do frequent split-and-cleans, and also to encourage more frequent cleaning by other operators, ensuring higher levels of product quality and consistency.

According to the manufacturer, the boltless die is most useful for processors of custom sheet, high-clarity goods, and degradable resins. It's also said to be beneficial for processors who change materials or colors frequently, or process heat-sensitive resins with degraded byproducts that must be cleaned out of the flow channel to prevent defects. Manufacturers of electronic and medical products or optical-grade film and sheet needing frequent buildup removal from the die are also said to benefit.

In addition to eliminating the need to loosen and tighten body bolts, the boltless die permits online splitting and cleaning using a cart designed to hold the die and the hydraulic and mechanical components of its clamping system. The cart installs on any typical extrusion line and can accommodate dies of different widths. The combination of online cleaning and mechanized clamping is meant to reduce total split-and-clean time, so that most machine downtime is devoted to the die cleanout itself.

Extrusion Dies Inc.
Chippewa Falls, WI
(715) 726-1201
www.extrusiondies.com

Thickness Gauge Measures Individual Layers

A new precision thickness gauge has the ability to isolate individual layers in multilayered material. The Model 25 Multi Plus ultrasonic thickness gauge can reportedly make accurate one-sided measurements on most engineering materials of different shapes and sizes, and a new feature allows it to simultaneously display thickness measurements for up to four different material layers. Stored setups like sound velocity let the gauge display the four layers' thickness.

The barrier layer mode can isolate thin layers found in multilayered parts like bottle preforms. The absence of separation between the echo of the front and back of a barrier layer can hamper measurements in typical gauges, but the Multi Plus' barrier mode reportedly measures these easily. The gauge's wide-thickness range is .1 to 500 mm with resolution up to .001 mm.

The controls consist of a keypad with an LCD screen that stores 25 default transducer setups for direct contact, delay line, and immersion transducers. Up to 35 custom transducer storage locations allow saving and access setups for many applications.

Panametrics Inc., Waltham, MA
(781) 899-2719
www.panametrics-ndt.com

Deep-Hole Drilling Center Increases Flexibility

An optional servopowered machining head used for light milling, counterboring, and tapping reportedly reduces production costs, increases speed and efficiency, and provides flexibility for moldbuilders. The head is used with the horizontal deep-hole drilling center (HDHDC), and all functions are programmable through the Heidenheim 430B CNC control. Features on the HDHDC include deep-hole drilling modules capable of drilling holes up to 2 inches in diameter to standard depths of 66 inches. A BTA package allows the machine to utilize both Gundrill and BTA-style tooling. The gundrilling module is standard permanent equipment on the drilling center and is also available separately as a retrofit to existing boring mills. The HDHDC table travels 78 inches on the x-axis, 66 inches on the y-axis, and 27.5 inches on the z-axis.

Dadson Corp., Grafton, WI
(262) 377-9310
www.gundrilling.com

High-Speed Autowinder

An autowinder launched at K 2001 is capable of winding flexible tubing and profiles at up to 500 m/min, depending on the process. It can also automatically change reels or coils during continuous running. Previously, manufacturers had to either slow down or completely stop the line during reel changeover. Further restrictions on the length of each coil have also been eliminated.

Reportedly, the autowinder's automated changeover sequence almost eliminates the need for operator intervention. When a preprogrammed length is reached a warning alarm sounds and the winder automatically changes the reels over, cuts and attaches the tube or profile onto a new reel, and presents the completed reel. Another signal from the winder alerts the operator that changeover is complete. If the tubing is being wound onto coils rather than reels, automated wrapping and/or strapping operations can be added to the sequence.

The winders are available with a range of standard coil formers or can be customized to match existing reel sizes. Tension and speed are controlled even when winding very lightweight products, and the servocontrolled automatic traverse with a fiber-optic flange sensing system is said to produce a clean and neatly wound coil. A PLC touch screen allows number input, storage, and configurable access levels.

Boston Matthews, Norwood, NJ
(201) 767-7111
www.bostonmatthews.co.uk

Weathering Device Tests Sunlight Effects

The UV2000 fluorescent UV condensation weathering instrument tests the effects of sunlight on coatings, plastics, textiles, adhesives, sealants, and other materials. The device operates with a power supply system designed to increase bulb life, which reportedly generates steadier output and eliminates the need for bulb rotation.

The UV2000 also features a controller with a touch-screen display for setting up test parameters, and a microprocessor-based test control with test parameter storage. The UV2000 provides complete irradiance control, as well as superior air and temperature distribution. The device also has a low-water-level alarm, and a safety for the water heater and high-temperature chamber.

The UV2000 uses eight 40W fluorescent UV lamps. A countdown timer controls the duration of a test, and an operation meter displays the total hours the instrument has been in use. The instrument is equipped with independent UV and condensation cycle switches, and specimen holders for 75-by-300-mm and 100-by-300-mm panels. Spray for thermal shock or water-initiated erosion is an option.

Atlas Material Testing Solutions, Chicago, IL
(773) 327-4520
www.atlas-mts.com

Dosing and Mixing System Handles up to Nine Formula Components

The Gramix S9-2000 modular dosing and mixing system is designed for a dosing capacity of 2000 kg/hr. Up to nine formula components can be dosed and mixed simultaneously. Depending on whether the extruder's operating mode is in overfeed or underfeed, the main component can be fed freely into the mixing support or via a dosing station with a speed-regulated dosing screw. The dosing stations can be fitted with screws from the HV 30, HV 60, and HV 80 Series. There are 10 mutually exchangeable dosing screws that provide a dosing capacity of .3 to 1500 kg/hr.

The weighing hopper has a useful volume of 200 liters, and weighing hoppers with a useful volume of 3 to 200 liters are available for the auxiliary components. The cylindrical sections of the weighing hoppers are made of acrylic glass. Along with the detachable sight glasses on the mixing support, they reportedly allow the user to monitor the dosing and mixing process visually, and to clean the system quickly without leaving any residue. All parts in contact with the product are made from noncorroding materials to avoid contamination. Both the individual dosing stations and the complete system can be delivered in a high-temperature-resistant version, which can be used to prepare multicomponent mixtures with bulk material temperatures of up to 160C.

The microprocessor control unit continually compares the material quantities actually dosed and weighed with the nominal value for the individual formula components. Deviations from the nominal value are recognized and corrected immediately by increasing or reducing the discharge rate throughput. The system then automatically adjusts itself to meet these values and prevent weighing errors. The consumption data for each formula component, registered as either job-specific or time-related, are available for statistical cost accounting, materials management and quality documentation. The suction conveying system's control is built into the control unit of the dosing and mixing system.

Mann+Hummel ProTec GmbH
Ludwigsburg, Germany
+49 (71) 41 454-0
www.mh-protec.com

Molders Economic Index: More molders will see growth by the summer

Evidence is accumulating fast that the manufacturing economy will pull out of a deep recession by the summer, provided no additional terrorist attacks take place to derail consumer confidence. 

Here are the key indicators:
• Car and light truck sales boomed again in November after a very strong October. Carmakers have already indicated cautious plans to boost production in early 2002. 

• Holiday spending data show that consumers are returning to stores. While complete data will not be available until well after this issue is printed, early signs show that the critical holiday spending in 2001 could beat 2000 levels. 

• Inventories of major retailers are depleted. Orders for all types of consumer goods are anticipated. 

• Sales of computers and electronic products have shown signs of life, leading to projections of moderate to strong growth in 2002. 

• Housing is holding up well. This will boost orders for construction components, appliance parts, and furniture parts. 

We predict that the pickup in overall molding business will take several months to filter through the economy and that by late spring most molders will see a nice increase in orders. 

This rosy forecast applies to all of North America—the United States, Mexico, and Canada. As explained at the end of this article, IMM now covers this entire region with the index to provide a more meaningful gauge of molding activity. 



Economic Developments 
Here are some of the developments that back up our assertions. 

An important gauge of future economic activity rose .3 percent in October. The New York-based Conference Board said in December that its Index of Leading Economic Indicators edged up to 109.4 in October, following a .5 percent decline in September and a .1 percent drop in August. The index indicates where the overall economy is headed in the next three to six months. It started at 100 in 1996, its base year. 

Sales of new cars and trucks maintained a robust pace in November after a record-setting October, as interest-free loans and other discounts continued to attract buyers. It now looks like 2001 may be the second or third best year ever for car and light truck sales. 

Some carmakers remain cautious about the new year, setting low production targets for the first quarter. For instance, Ford has set its first-quarter production forecast for 2002 at 980,000 vehicles, about 9 percent lower than Q1 2001. By contrast, GM said it's setting its first-quarter production forecast at 1.3 million vehicles, up 7 percent from a year ago. GM also said it's boosting Q4 2001 production by 15,000 vehicles. 

For all of 2001 import of automotive parts increased, further cutting into the average local content. This hurts U.S. molders. While Canadian parts are considered local, the rapidly growing car parts imports from Mexico are still counted as foreign. Considering how many U.S. molders have operations in Mexico, some of the data on U.S. automotive parts molding are somewhat misleading. 

Overall manufacturing is poised for recovery, regardless of bad news in late November and early December. For instance, U.S. manufacturing in November contracted for the 16th straight month, though the rate of decline slowed. The Tempe, AZ-based National Assn. of Purchasing Management said that its index of business activity rose to 44.5 in November from 39.8 in October. 

Industrial production plunged in October for the 13th month in a row, the longest string of declines in manufacturing activity since the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation's factories, utilities, and mines plummeted 1.1 percent, on top of a similar 1 percent decline in September. Operating capacity sank to 74.8 percent in October, the lowest level since June 1983. 

What is likely to boost manufacturing in 2002 is a resumption in strong consumer spending, forcing retailers to increase orders. In December the Commerce Dept. reported that personal spending rose by a record 2.9 percent in October, led by a surge in the purchase of autos and other durable goods. 



Electronics: Hints of Growth 
Several molders making components for computers and related equipment have e-mailed us. They all state that quoting activity is up and that customers have indicated that orders will be higher come March or even sooner. 

Several leading indicators confirm this. Global sales of semiconductors rose just 2.5 percent in October and remain well below 2000 levels, but after a tough year, chip inventories are now largely in balance, and prices are rebounding, the Semiconductor Industry Assn. (SIA) reported. 

SIA also said global semiconductor sales will increase 6 percent in 2002 to $150 billion, and 21 percent in each of the following two years, reaching $218 billion by 2004. Another report said that the telecommunications equipment industry should begin turning around in Q1 2002, spurred by consumer demand. 

The Shosteck Group, a Washington, DC-based telecommunications consulting firm, projects that telecommunications equipment sales will recover by 4.5 percentage points to increase 11.2 percent in 2002 over 2001 levels. It expects industry sales to grow an additional 10 percent in 2003 compared with 2002. 

The major fly in the ointment is mobile phones, an attractive market for molders of low-tolerance parts. The decline in global mobile phone sales accelerated in the third quarter, with industry leader Nokia again losing market share, according to research firm Gartner Dataquest. 

The New Index â€” For a PDF version of the Economic Index table click here.
This month we start the new North American Molder's Economic Index. We report two indices. 

One is the traditional report tracking growth in output of molded parts for the U.S. The second index tracks the combined output for molded parts for Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. 

This adjustment is forced by the fact that Mexico has taken away from the U.S. numerous molding jobs, but exports the components into the U.S. And Canada, even though it's struggling with the same recession as the U.S., is becoming a dominant supplier of injection molded automotive parts, components for sporting goods, furniture, and housing parts. 

The North American economy will be the subject of a special report in the next issue of IMM

Agostino von Hassell of The Repton Group, New York, NY, prepares this index. Contact him at [email protected]. 

Combination Injection, Blowmolding Machine

A system introduced at K 2001 combines injection molding of a preform and blowmolding of a container in one machine. The inline design of the IndexSB (stretch blow) puts the servodriven blowmolder directly behind the rotating turret of the index unit.

The injection side features an electric screw drive, variable displacement pumps, and accumulators. Unlike in a two-stage process, preforms are transferred by robot to the blowmolding module while they're still hot. They are further conditioned in halogen lamp ovens before being blown into shape. Containers are then oriented correctly onto a downstream conveyor. The standard injection-to-blow cavity ratio is 2:1, and 3:1 and 4:1 ratios are being developed for certain applications.

The IndexSB is aimed at the short-run, custom container segment of the market where molders have to change products relatively often. In this market, low volume is less than 50 million parts per year. The IndexSB combines the Index 125 preform system with a servodriven blowmolding machine designed and made by Husky. It will produce containers from 25 ml to 5 liters, and a full changeover takes two technicians 2 hours. Changing only the blowmolds takes 15 minutes.

Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd.
Bolton, ON
(905) 951-5000
www.husky.ca

Machine Series Trims and Finishes PET Containers

A new series of rotary and flange trimming machines from the makers of can and other rigid container machinery were on display at K 2001. The machines will trim and finish widemouth PET containers manufactured from narrow neck preforms, and are rated at up to 800 containers per minute.

The DT Series rotary trimming machines allow the production of widemouth PET containers by using standard narrow-neck instead of widemouth preforms. The production is done using existing multiple-cavity injection molds and blowmolding equipment.

Reportedly, the DT Series delivers burr-free, sliver-free, and step-free trimming for PET containers with diameters ranging from 50 to 110 mm, and heights between 80 and 240 mm. Models for various speed requirements are available, in addition to versions for finishing the inside neck of HDPE, LDPE, and other polyolefin containers.

The FT Series rotary flange trimming machines are used to produce PET cans from narrow-neck preforms with a flange suitable for double seaming of pressurized products. These trimmers are said to trim to a fixed flange diameter without burrs, steps, or slivers for PET containers between 50 to 110 mm in diameter.

Modular trim stations are designed for easy removal and simple maintenance, as well as interchangeability between models. Additional modules allow for neck curling, pressure and leak testing, vision inspection, and PS label application.

Belvac Production Machinery Inc.
Lynchburg, VA
(800) 423-5822
www.belvac.com

Parting Shots: Pull up a seat

All-plastic toilet seats were first molded at Bemis facilities in 1964. Here final inspection and trimming are performed in a photo taken for the company's first corporate brochure in 1989.

This time of year it's nice to curl up with a good book to take your mind off work . . . or make you think more about it. While Be Seated by Bemis: A 100-year History of Bemis Manufacturing Company is a light read, it should also make owners of molding firms think about putting their own company history in print. In this chronology of Bemis' successes and the adaptations in its products since 1901, readers will appreciate the flexibility with which the company operated through economic depression, war, and petroleum crises. 

Molders today face many challenges in a dwindling economy. The key is to adapt to these conditions, and Bemis Mfg. Co. had plenty of practice in the last century. 

The Depression forced the first major change in the company's product line, which had gradually moved from a child's wooden wagon to novelty furniture. Recognizing the need to produce more practical items, Albert Bemis, the company's owner, embarked on a new plumbing product line, which included wood toilet seats. 

When World War II made brass a rare and costly item for nonwar-related goods, Bemis took its first foray into plastic with a toilet seat hinge. Then, in the early 1950s, the time-intensive process of fashioning a laminated birch toilet seat gave way to a "newly emerging method" that created a denser, heavier product than wood—sawdust and resin blended through compression molding. 

The slogan above represented the company's products for decades.

Bemis was not the first to mold an all-plastic toilet seat, but F.K. "Pete" Bemis, son of Albert and at the time president, recognized the need to remain competitive. Initially the company chose to subcontract with another Wisconsin molder to develop the company's first all-plastic seat; however, as the benefits of plastics became increasingly evident, Bemis took a solid step into molding in 1963 with the purchase of a 1000-ton Watson-Stillman machine for $15,000. All molding operations were moved in-house at this point, and a year later Bemis produced its first all-plastic seat, the Model 800, made from HIPS. 

Bemis took part in other stages of the country's history, from electric guitars to gas station giveaways, but what remain today are the toilet seats and other products that resulted from a series of acquisitions: humidifier housings, lawn tractor casings, and outdoor furniture, to name a few. 

Molding sizable products such as these signaled a commitment to large-capacity molding, and in July 2000 a massive 6600-ton coinjection Milacron Maxima—said to be the largest of its kind—was delivered to Bemis' Sheboygan Falls, WI plant. The book describes its footprint as the size of a three-bedroom house with a height of 18 ft. 

Large-part molding was embraced completely in 2000 when Bemis bought this mammoth 6600-ton coinjection machine.


For Bemis Mfg. Co., adapting paid off. Now run by Richard and Peter Bemis, sons of Pete Bemis, this firm in 2001 employed more than 3000, had 10 operations in five countries, and occupied more than 2.8 million sq ft of manufacturing, distribution, and office space. 

While the book's text is interesting reading, it only tells a portion of the narrative. Old and recent photographs of people, products, and places, as well as newspaper clippings, timelines, and sidebars (such as the love story between Albert and Oleida Bemis) give a personal sense of this family-run business. Historical images, like the one of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam (where thousands of Bemis toilet seats were shipped), underscore the book's message that Bemis' story is inseparable from that of the nation's.